Junior post player Olivia Menden of the Upper Arlington High School girls basketball team is looking forward to playing back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Watterson Christmas Classic.

Junior post player Olivia Menden of the Upper Arlington High School girls basketball team is looking forward to playing back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Watterson Christmas Classic.

"I love playing a lot of games right in a row," Menden said. "We've done so much conditioning this season.

"One of the strengths of this team is its athleticism. Playing back-to-back games is not going to be that big of a deal. We've got great endurance and great speed that some of the other teams might not have on the second day."

The Golden Bears, who are 5-3 in Watterson's holiday tournament since the 2006-07 season, face Dublin Jerome on Tuesday and Rocky River Magnificat on Wednesday. The Celtics were 3-2 after defeating Zanesville 45-37 in overtime on Dec. 14 and Westerville South 44-42 last Friday. The Blue Streaks lost 47-42 to Westlake in their opener on Dec. 1 but won their next three, including 46-32 over Avon on Dec. 15.

Upper Arlington could play the Watterson Christmas Classic without two starters, as neither post player Kaelyn McNeil (lacerated knee) nor guard Sarah Hobbs (thumb injury) played last Friday in a 56-29 win over Hilliard Darby.

"We've got a lot of kids who have been thrust into big roles because of the injuries," coach Chris Savage said. "While those two are out, it's kind of an open audition for the rest of the team to show us why they should be getting playing time. Hopefully, when Sarah and Kaelyn get back, we're going to be that much deeper."

The injuries and back-to-back games mean the Bears will be counting on Menden to play a lot of minutes. Through four games, she was averaging 6.5 points and scored a season-high eight against Darby.

Menden has been part of a four-player rotation UA has used to help offset the loss of Jane Windler and Shannon Flower to graduation.

Windler averaged 10.7 points and 9.3 rebounds last season and was named OCC-Central Division Player of the Year and second-team all-district in Division I. She finished second on the Bears' all-time rebounding list with 653.

Of the 114 combined points UA scored against Darby and in a 61-58 loss to Dublin Coffman on Dec. 14, 34 have come from the post players.

At 5-foot-9, Menden is four inches shorter than Windler, who is 6-1. But what Menden may lack in size, she makes up for with speed and endurance.

"It's definitely been a transition without having Jane, but we have a lot of athletes who are quicker, more agile post players," Menden said. "Instead of being big, we're quick."

"It's impossible to match her quickness and agility," Savage said of Menden.

"She's so in shape that she can play a ton of minutes and I never have to worry about her getting tired."

When not playing basketball, Menden is a distance runner. The past two seasons, she joined Hobbs and seniors Leah Moody and Bethany Yunker at the Division I state track and field meet on the 3,200-meter relay, which placed 11th in 9 minutes, 34.1 seconds last season and 11th in 9:27.15 in 2009.

This past fall, Menden switched from soccer to cross country and placed 25th at state in 18:45.6.

Despite being in an era when high school athletes often specialize in a sport, Savage said only three of the team's top 10 players are focused solely on basketball.

"The nice thing about that is they develop that winning mentality," Savage said. "I came from a smaller school (DeSales) where a lot of athletes play multiple sports, so I am all for playing more than one sport."

Menden said she plans on being a distance runner in college, but basketball gives her a release that she doesn't get from running. She admits, though, that it was a rough transition between cross country and basketball.

"I've been running in a straight line forever and then all of a sudden we're doing these drills where we're moving all around the court," Menden said.

"My muscles were sore in places I hadn't used (during cross country)."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the Upper Arlington girls basketball team:

*Dec. 14 - Lost to Dublin Coffman 61-58. Mary Corbett scored 22 points, including four 3-pointers. Michela Paradiso had 14 points.

*Last Friday - Defeated Hilliard Darby 56-29. Corbett scored 17 points.

*Last Tuesday - Played Central Crossing

Tuesday - Dublin Jerome at Watterson Christmas Classic

Wednesday - Rocky River Magnificat at Watterson Christmas Classic

*Jan. 3 - Home vs. Westland. The Bears went 3-0 against Westland last season, winning 68-40 and 74-26 in the regular season and 68-30 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

Of note: The Bears were 3-1 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Central before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Central game